Shall We Leave the Adversity Outside? Or Do We Take It In?

So, I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ way, lately.  I’ve been thinking about how he does not win the way we ant-brained people win.  He conquers through loss; he wins by losing.  He dominates through submission.

I’d been toying with the word “undercoming” as a way of expressing this.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is falling in love with the Ted Talks.  They are 15 minute speeches given by a dizzying array of amazing people.  There is like a gazillion online, and half a gazillion available to watch on Netflix.  I watched one tonight given by a double amputee named Aimee Mullins.  She moved me and said all kinds of amazing things.

The thing that struck a chord with all this Jesus-stuff I’ve been thinking about is this:

I’ve never been comfortable when people ask me about overcoming adversity.

She went on to explain that overcoming adversity is based on this paradigm where there is a normal life, and there is something that happens, and we make this attempt to remain untouched, unscathed through the challenges so that we can resume life on the other side.

It brought to my mind the criticism that we try to live in a subject-object metaphysic; we try to operate in a world where there are do-ers and there recipients of our do-ings.  We deny our interconnections, the ways that we are impacted.

Mullins talked about the idea that we ought to recognize, perhaps even celebrate, the transformations that adversity provokes.  Our goal should not be to return to life-as-it-was before.  Our goal should be to find ourselves made new, recreated by that which we face.

Her points helped me to draw a connection with another thing I think is so crazy about the way that God works.   He makes himself vulnerable to us.  He did so in the garden of Eden.  And he did it again at Calvary.  

I don’t think it’s right to say that God learns through his hurts.  He knows everything already.  I think it’s right to say that we can try to overcome, by seeing adversity like a mountain outside of us.   But better yet is Jesus’ way, the way of undercoming.  Undercoming requires a sort-of submission to adveristy… But rather than being a mountain we must climb, the adversity becomes something we embrace within ourselves; and somehow, in the act of being transformed we transform the adversity to.

This is all kind of sketchy in my head.  I think I need to work out some concrete examples.  Maybe I’m just full of crap.  But it feels right.Image


Published by


The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Shall We Leave the Adversity Outside? Or Do We Take It In?”

  1. Oh, you’re right. I’m discovering this outside the theoretical right now myself–not in such devastating ways as you, but still . . . discovering it nonetheless. Thanks for this, Jeff. Nice timing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s